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Chemicals & the Economy – the first 6 months

It is now almost 6 months since I started writing this blog. And I thought you might like some feedback on how it is developing. As you can see from the green-shading on the map, it is now read in almost all of the major chemical producing/consuming areas. A high proportion of readers bookmark the […]

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Oil supply worries increase

In recent days, 3 respected commentators on oil markets have raised concerns about the near and medium-term prospects for oil supplies: • Goldman Sachs has raised their 2008 WTI price forecast to $95/bbl from $85/bbl. This is driven by their expectation that cost inflation, plus continuing technological and political uncertainty, will ‘increase the price required […]

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Another day, another $17bn

News that UBS, the major investment bank, has had to follow Citigroup in raising new capital in a hurry, will have added to the CFO concerns I describe below. Massive subprime losses have forced both banks to raise a combined $24.5bn in the past fortnight. Both had previously said that their losses would only be […]

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CFO pessimism increases

CFOs are paid to worry, but their worries seem to be increasing quite rapidly, according to the results of the quarterly CFO survey by Duke University/The Economist. This showed: • Record pessimism about the US economy, with US CFOs worrying about ‘weak consumer demand, high fuel costs, rising labor costs and credit markets’. • European […]

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A satirical look at the subprime debacle

A reader has kindly sent me a YouTube link to a recent British television sketch featuring two masters of satire, John Bird and John Fortune. It takes the form of a mock-interview, with Bird playing the all-wise investment banker, and explaining to Fortune how subprime happened, and what a SIV might be. Not only is […]

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Asia ‘Recouples’

The major investment banks have changed their minds about the potential for Asia to ‘decouple’ from any credit-crunch induced downturn in the West. Originally, they had believed that domestic demand in China and elsewhere would enable the Asian economy to sail ahead, no matter what happened elsewhere. I was a bit sceptical of this hypothesis, […]

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OPEC targets stocks, not prices

There is some interesting material on the OPEC website, following this week’s Summit, which clarifies their current strategy. The key points are: • OPEC is currently targeting inventories, not prices. Their policy is to keep OECD crude stocks within the 5 year average. OPEC says its previous production cutbacks ‘minimised the excessive overhangs that existed […]

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Credit markets ‘worst in 47 years’

Central banks seem to have their work cut out if they are to restore normality to global credit markets. The famed head of Legg Mason, Chip Mason, who manages over $100 billion of assets, and is one of the world’s largest money managers, said yesterday that ‘credit markets are in the worst state he has […]

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UK housing lenders shut the door too late

The UK has a proverb about how stable doors only get shut after the horse has run away. We can see this happening in the UK housing market. The main regulator (the FSA) failed to spot the Northern Rock problem before it led to the UK’s first bank run in 140 years. Only now has […]

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Should US mortgage rates rise?

There’s a very interesting article in Barrons (the premier US investment magazine) today. It compares current efforts by Treasury Secretary Paulson in trying to cap US mortgage rates with President Nixon’s ill-fated introduction of a US wage/prices freeze in 1971. Barrons points out that non-US buyers are already being hit by major write-downs in the […]

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